Changing Expectations: Becoming a Grandmother

Written by Toni Arfaras

Toni and her granddaughter
Toni and her granddaughter

I’m sitting here, writing this, with a tinge of sadness as the effects of my stroke force me to confront another aspect of the expectations of how I thought my life would play out and what the reality is. I know that regardless of whether you’ve had a stroke or not we all have to modify such thoughts and actions and that COVID, and the restrictions it has brought about, have meant that most if not all people have experienced such changes. But they are, hopefully, and in the scheme of things, short-lived changes or ones that haven’t rocked your inner identity. The effects of stroke are not and so I grieve for what I thought I would be.

Within this grief is so much joy; you see I recently became a grandmother. A beautiful little girl has been added to our family and though, at the moment, we are only able to see her via Zoom I was lucky enough to get to cradle her twice between our two lock downs.

In my pre-stroke life I imagined my role as a grandmother entailing visiting my daughter and assisting where I could, babysitting whenever the need arose, reading a multitude of picture books, singing songs and, as she got older,  cooking and craft activities, and walking and exclaiming at the joys of nature. In my head I was going to be as vivacious and engaging as any Playschool presenter.

The reality is the effects of my stroke mean I don’t drive so any visit has to be well planned with an accompanying driver, and with sensory overload that can be set off by a baby crying, I can’t be left to babysit by myself…it is a case of the babysitter needing their own babysitter carer. That same sensory overload results in me not being able to go for walks by myself so slow ambling strolls with my hand being clasped by little squishy fingers will be limited and whereas once I took so much delight in reading out aloud picture books with accompanying voices and sound effects those same sentences will be stilted and intonation may be non-existent.

I know in the scheme of things these may seem like small ‘issues’ but each of them jars against my being and so my expectation of being a grandmother has been eroded. It is confronting…writing this has made it seem all the more real and I have tears in my eyes but I can’t change my deficits. Now I need to rebuild the internal image of myself and discover what will work for me.I am lucky that we have a big backyard that we will be able to explore together and that my husband is a wonderful man who will support me in whatever babysitting we can do. But I am also cognisant of the fact that any activities I may plan will impact on him and add to his caring of me; be it the cleaning up of spilt paint, the dust of flour or his worst nightmare…glitter.

It may seem strange but I take some comfort that my granddaughter will have only known post stroke me. She can’t make comparisons like I do and will accept me as I am now. I also know, just as with pre stroke me, we will create memories, that I will treasure every moment I get to spend with her and that I love her… and those are the most important things to share with her.

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  • Omgoodness Toni the same thing has happened to me. A stroke in July 2020 has changed me forever my fourth granddaughter was born January 21 but because of f lockdown I have only seen her twice. I don’t have trouble with speech and I look and sound fine but I’m forever changed. How I want to interact with all my grandkids has changed, like you I have to rely on being driven places but only when I’m not feeling I’m on overload. It’s so hard to explain the sensory overload to people and frankly many don’t believe me and don’t want to talk about it. The grandmother I want to be has gone and been replaced with someone I don’t really recognise. Your words resonated with me and made me cry 😢….I’ve improved a lot and I believe I will keep on improving. I wish you well ❤️

  • Toni you have worth and your granddaughter will enjoy your worth. It’s our expectations and our grief in what we were and want now. Somewhere you meet yourself in the middle and have a better hold on your new life. Then you’ll flourish and give what you can and feel worthy you have contributed as a Grandma Children have different eyes in how they see you. Believe in yourself in the new you. You’ll find your lane with her.